7 personality types to avoid when you're dating

In a world of Facebook “likes” and online dating questionnaires that seem to narrow down the soul-mate search to a simple (and yet oh so witty!) checklist of wants and needs, it’s easy to focus on the superficial ways in which we do or don’t connect with each other. And granted, that stuff can make or break a first date, and can be indicative of a long-term connection. We both love darts! He’s got a flat butt too! Another unabashed Miley Cyrus fan?! Still, superficial connections have a tendency to mask bedsheet-sized red flags. Like, oh, say, the fact that your date is a raging narcissist. So we turned to Gordon Livingston, M.D., author of the book How to Love: Choosing Well at Every Stage of Life, and asked him to weigh on the, well, weightier issues. Specifically, seven personality types that you should avoid in your search for Mr./Ms. Right. Even if said Mr./Ms. performs the best damn air guitar solo you’ve ever seen.

1. The Self-Absorbed Hysteric

These so-called “histrionic” people often describe themselves as “passionate and emotional.” Their primary drive is to be the center of attention. Their self-absorption and superficiality make it hard for them to engage in the give and take of healthy relationships. Danger signals that one is in the presence of a self-absorbed “hysteric” include shallowness and a more or less constant need to be the focus of attention. It is just very hard for them to get beyond their own needs to consider their obligations to others, even their own children.

2. The Narcissist

It should not be hard to recognize people who manifest a grandiose sense of self-importance, and yet they cause untold heartache. In a culture where physical attractiveness and self-confidence are highly valued, their glibness and stories of success are initially appealing. Commonly intelligent, they are able to feign interest in others so that their lack of empathy may take time to become apparent. Think of those people you know who exhibit a sense that they are so special that they are outraged when anyone places constraints upon them, who have difficulty participating in conversations that do not center on them, and who convey in ways large and small the fact that everyone else exists primarily to meet their needs and desires. Not good candidates for a lasting relationship, that’s for sure.

3. The Sociopath

If we see others only as objects to be manipulated for our own pleasure or gain, we are sociopaths and operating outside our culture’s laws and norms. Sociopaths are unconstrained by feelings of attachment or loyalty, see life as a game, and are motivated only by a need for power and control. Unfortunately, such people are usually glib, charming, and able to draw others to them. Their defining characteristic is a capacity for deceit. Once it begins to dawn on you that they are so self-centered that no concept such as the rights and needs of others ever crosses their mind, they begin to seem like people from another planet.

4. The Clinging Dependent

Here we have people whose primary need is to be taken care of. They have trouble making decisions; they require constant reassurance from others. In return they are self-sacrificing to a fault. They are prepared to tolerate all manner of mistreatment, emotional and physical. They fear abandonment and cling to those they see as reliable sources of strength and support. Are you prepared to be the sole emotional refuge of another?

5. The Perfectionist / The Control Freak

They may alphabetize the canned goods in their cupboards; they are so wrapped up in preparatory detail that it may inhibit their ability to accomplish anything; they are inflexible, judgmental, and rule-bound. Many of them appear to prefer work to leisure. Meanwhile, they tend to drive those who are close to them crazy with their rigidity and need for control. They are highly critical and tend to reserve their harshest judgments for their own failure to meet their elevated standards. Since they live with constant self-criticism, they are hard on others. One has to be careful in forming relationships with those who are preoccupied with order and control — unless you are especially dependent or histrionic and need help organizing your life. Then, provided that neither of you change and you develop a high tolerance for boredom, you may live happily ever after.

6. The Pessimist / The Depressive

They exhibit a chronic and pervasive sense of inadequacy, futility, and self-blame. Their lives are filled with worry and they are nearly incapable of experiencing pleasure. The world being what it is, the pessimists among us have ample ammunition to support their gloomy outlooks. And in the end, they will ultimately be proven right: each life does end badly. To try to convince them that one can be happy in the face of this discouraging fact is usually an exercise in disappointment. From such attitudes, there is no escape.

7. The Fool

They are seldom insightful or reflective, though they may be intelligent and capable of useful work. They tend toward a certain loquaciousness and are not often good listeners. Intolerance in areas of ethics, politics, or religion is the hallmark of fools. Since foolishness depends on context and represents deviance from some social norm, it is not necessarily a permanent affliction. The deficits that define a fool — a lack of understanding, judgment, or common sense — are also remediable by experience and learning. Nevertheless, an established inability, even as a teenager, to think clearly makes one a poor candidate for a lasting relationship.

Adapted from How to Love: Choosing Well at Every Stage of Life by Gordon Livingston, M.D. Reprinted courtesy of Da Capo Lifelong Books.


photo by Carlos Madrigal